Why Learning Agility is the Skill That Matters Most


By Kathleen Laney - January 26, 2016

One of the key themes at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland was the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and what it means to us all.  The term the “fourth industrial revolution”, coined by Klaus Schwab, refers to developments in big data, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, 3d printing, and robotics. These developments are proving to have profound implications for every aspect of our lives. How we live, work, communicate and travel will all change dramatically.

A concern highlighted at Davos was the threat that innovation will threaten to eliminate millions of jobs. We will continue seeing the elimination of jobs. Routine white collar office and administrative jobs will disappear in the greatest number. At the same time, we can see the continuing trend of a shortage of skilled workers. Talent with tech skills will remain in high demand for the foreseeable future.

Opportunities for workers in computing, mathematics and engineering are significantly increasing. There are approximately over one million open cyber security jobs globally that remain unfilled. Skilled workers aren’t exempt from needing to update and expand skill sets. The average skill today has an average half-life of five years. The quickest way to become as obsolete as eight-track tape players or the VCR is to stop learning.

So back to the title of this blog - learning agility.

Because of the circumstances and trends outlined above, learning agility is the one current skill you possess that is guaranteed to be relevant both today and in the future.  The term learning agility refers to a person’s speed and ability to learn. Individuals with strong learning agility skills are quickly able to learn, analyze and understand new situations and new business problems. They can perform in ambiguous and complex environments and don't accept the status quo.

 Below are three aspects of successful agile learners:

  1. Innovation. Many workers will stick to familiar approaches that have worked in the past, and such an approach leads to workers getting stuck in routines and are less likely to innovate. It’s the biggest trap you can fall into that will destroy your career. By trying out new approaches and expanding your skill set, you can uncover ways of doing things that will save you time and energy.
  2. Reflection. It is no longer enough to simply take the initiative to study or network with experts in your field. It doesn’t guarantee you will be able to use your new skills. True learning happens when we take the time to understand how new knowledge will affect you in your career. Reflection should also be used to make sense of past experiences by understanding the why and how of past experiences. Taking time to recognize what works and what doesn’t is the key to successful agile learners.
  3. Application. Agile learners actively apply the information and skills they acquire in real life based on their reflections. Learning agility is not about the possession of information but the use and application of information.  They also recognize what to do when they don’t have the skills to do it.  These individuals know to ask questions and embrace being in new or uncomfortable situations. Attempts to use newly learned skills may not go smoothly on your first try. Through trial and error, you will gradually develop a clear picture of how something should be done by seeing the results first-hand.

 The future belongs to the most learning agile. Start learning and developing yourself now.  Over time, you will be able to realize your full potential.

Go Back